26 October 2010

Frisco's Exide Plant ready to make Upgrades to cut Lead Emissions

Dallas Morning News

Upgrades are scheduled next week to help reduce lead emissions from a battery recycling plant in Frisco.

Plant manager Don Barar said he has already made several changes at Exide Technologies Inc.'s local facility. It's in one of up to 17 areas around the country not expected to meet new federal air-quality standards for lead, a toxic metal that causes serious health issues. The Environmental Protection Agency is scheduled to finalize the proposed areas as early as Friday.

Barar said the plant will shut down operations for a week beginning Monday to improve its bag houses to capture even more lead particles.

"I'm encouraged by the work done at the facility," Barar said. "I believe we're on the verge of compliance" with the new standards, he said.

But Frisco City Manager George Purefoy said Wednesday that's not enough. He and other city leaders issued an ultimatum in a letter to residents released last week. City leaders want Exide to be the "most environmentally advanced plant in the country." If Exide can't do that, then it doesn't belong in Frisco, Purefoy said.

New standards

Battery recycling companies are looking at improvements because of new standards for lead issued in 2008 that are 10 times as stringent. The only area in the south-central U.S. not expected to meet that new standard is in Frisco. State regulators have proposed a 2.4-square-mile area around Exide Technologies that stretches from Frisco High School north to Pizza Hut Park and includes City Hall, several neighborhoods and businesses.

The proposed boundaries are based on maximum emissions allowed under the company's permit rather than actual lead emissions. Last year, Exide emitted 1.67 tons of lead. Its permit allowed up to 6.9 tons per year.

Exide officials and Frisco city leaders have been trying to reduce the proposed boundaries of the area to more accurately show where lead levels are too high. Doing so could spare a large number of properties.

Purefoy said property values are a concern, but the bigger issue is making sure the boundaries reflect reality rather than relying on the company's outdated permit levels.

"There is no doubt that it has caused a lot of concern in a lot of people's minds," he said. "If [the permit levels are] not relevant, why would you continue to worry those people?"

To bolster their case, Exide applied for a permit reduction Oct. 5. State regulators approved it a day later. Gov. Rick Perry has since sent a letter asking the EPA to consider new boundaries based on the reduced permit.

EPA spokesman Dave Bary said he doesn't know whether the boundaries will be changed this late in the process.

Barar, Exide's plant manager in Frisco, said that a new area could be as much as 50 percent smaller than the one proposed. The size of the area won't affect upgrades that the plant needs to make to reduce lead emissions. But it could allay some people's concerns. Barar said he was unsure whether the last-minute change would be considered.

"A smaller nonattainment area ... does a better job helping people understand who is and who may not be at risk," Barar said. "The goal here is to try and develop something that accurately reflects the data that we have and what real emissions are."

Pollution controls

Meanwhile, the city hired a consultant to investigate technology installed at a battery recycling facility in Southern California that reduced emissions well beyond the new standard for lead and other compounds. Dallas-based RSR Corp. has said lead emissions from its Quemetco plant in Los Angeles County dropped from 915 pounds a year to 10 to 12 pounds.

The pollution reduction has been remarkable, said Barry Wallerstein, executive director of South Coast Air Quality Management District, the regulator in that part of the state.

He said RSR has pushed the agency to approve more stringent air-quality regulations that would essentially force Exide to spend $20 million on similar pollution controls at its California plant 15 miles away.

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